In a recent interview, Luca Atalla had this question for Rickson Gracie: "In the 80s and 90s, you were a huge reference as the undisputed champion, and everybody knew that you were really into breathing. Why didn't people look to develop this skill? It's very strange, because people look at you and try to pass the guard like you, to finish the armbar like you, but nobody was interested in breathing like you. Why do you think?"
Read on for the second half of the master's answer, and find part 1 here.
"In the past, nobody did elastic training for functional strength; nobody did ice baths; and I was just finding myself ways to cope with my needs of 'Man, if I can stay in this freezing water and find myself calm to think about poetry, I'm ready to die anytime, because this comfort I find myself in here is unbelievable.' So I put myself in that, without nobody teaching me, without no [?] ice...
"So people started getting ice baths now, 30 years after myself getting ice baths. And even though the ice baths today, they do with the head up, which is just 40 percent of the problem... Start putting a snorkel and putting the head under the ice—you're gonna see the difference, because you feel like the pain in the eyes, the ears, the head starts to explode; and you have to put all this in account to be calm and say 'Okay; if I'm gonna die...' and achieve my calmness. So, once I achieved my calmness, I was ready to fight even the devil himself.
"So I was seeking for breathing not only to help me in my effectiveness on the mat, which sometimes doesn't play that much difference, but also to heal my spiritual and my mental aspects of insecure state of being. And once I learned I could affect my emotional and spiritual through breathing, it was another extra layer of motivation to keep breathing, because I felt like it was a solution for everything through a good mindset.
"And people, because they don't have the same challenges, they don't have the same things to achieve, they feel like 'Okay; I don't know how to breathe, but I still can pass guard, I still—' But they're not thinking about the possibility to die tomorrow; they don't think about the possibility to fight somebody with a different style, in a different weight division—whatever nightmare. So I was putting myself always with the worst nightmares in my perspective. And to cope with that, breathing was a very early solution for me."